Baby boomers are getting to the age when minor aches and pains start to add up.
The oldest boomers are turning 60, and they may stay healthier longer than earlier generations. But, if past performance turns out to be an indicator of future results, conditions such as back pain and osteoarthritis could determine how long some boomers will live on their own and avoid drawing on long term care insurance or other resources.
A 2003 study prepared for the federal Office of Disability, Aging and Long-Term Care Policy found that having trouble stooping increased the risk that an older Medicare beneficiary would enter an assisted living facility by 7% and that having trouble with walking across a room increased that risk by 28%.
Having trouble with preparing meals increased the risk a Medicare beneficiary would enter a nursing home by 41%.
In the long run, experts say, persuading “near elderly” boomer clients to talk to physical therapists, athletic trainers and others who know how to slow and cope with aging may do as much to improve those clients’ later years as helping those clients accumulate hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra savings and investment income.
In many communities, helping affluent clients stay healthy enough to postpone hiring round-the-clock home nurses or entering top-quality assisted living facilities just one year could save those clients more than $100,000 per year. Even clients with adequate LTC insurance may find that postponing the need for long term care can hold down out-of-pocket expenses and make life a lot more enjoyable.
Today, there is no obvious way for financial advisors to profit from encouraging boomer clients to invest in good health as well as in good annuities. Advisors don’t get a trailing commission when their clients live past age 100. But many fitness centers have offered exercise classes aimed at older people for years, and now some national and regional companies specialize in keeping older people fit.
Axia Health Management L.L.C., Phoenix, for example, offers SilverSneakers fitness programs through Medicare managed care plans and Medicare supplement insurance plans that have a total of 2.4 million members. The company’s exercise programs, which are free for eligible Medicare beneficiaries, help participants maintain flexibility and a sense of balance as well as improving cardiovascular health.
Either aerobic exercise or resistance exercise may lead to a reduction of more than 20% in the likelihood that older participants with osteoarthritis in the knees will develop trouble with activities of daily living over an 18-month period, according to the authors of a 2001 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Michael Weinper, president of PTPN Inc., Calabasas, Calif., a company that manages a large network of independent physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists and hand therapists, predicts that therapists, trainers and others who can help affluent boomers keep the gold in their golden years will stay busy.
“The boomers didn’t go through the Depression,” Weinper says. “They’re going to have more disposable income.”
Although Medicare is suffering from financial problems and has started to impose a $1,740 annual cap on reimbursement for physical and speech therapy, boomers probably will find some way to stabilize Medicare, Weinper says.
Once boomers are more confident about Medicare, they will feel free to use their savings to pay for services such as physical therapy, instead of hoarding savings to protect themselves against future catastrophic health care needs, he says.
Similarly, Weinper adds, affluent boomers who have private LTC insurance may be less likely to hoard their savings for LTC costs and, instead, to spend their savings on physical therapy services.
Given the current lack of connections between the financial services industry and the senior wellness industry, what can boomer advisors do to convince clients that wellness is a great investment?
Weinper says boomer advisors could:
–Invite physical therapists and other wellness experts to speak at seminars for prospects and clients.
–Include articles about the importance of proper computer furniture and posture in firm newsletters.
–Remind clients about the value of wearing shoes and doing exercises that can improve balance and prevent falls.
Weinper, who has just turned 60, says he now makes a point of working on balance at the gym. “So many injuries are the result of falls,” he says.